This month we’re focusing on Michelle Martz, a President Lincoln’s Cottage veteran, who was recently promoted from Programs Coordinator to Visitor Services Associate Manager. To congratulate her on her new role, Jenny Phillips, the External Communications Coordinator, sat down with her to dig deeper than, well, cheeseburgers.
Congrats on your new position! What’s your title? And in your own words, summarize your role here at the Cottage:
I’m now the Visitor Services Associate Manager. I will be overseeing all services related to visitation, monitoring and growing our visitation, and managing the front-line staff. Basically, ensuring that our excellent customer service continues.
You’ve worked at the Cottage for a while now—what are all the positions you’ve worked? Describe your own “Cottage evolution.”
My “Cottage Evolution” started by working on the front lines as a Historical Interpreter, which is actually no longer a position. I led tours, facilitated school programs and worked events. I appreciated the hands-on experience I gained while completing my Master’s degree in Museum Studies from George Washington University. Once I completed my Master’s degree, I left the Cottage for a full-time position at a larger museum. I still remember my “last” day working at the Cottage. I was upset I had to leave, since this place always held a special place in my heart. But it didn’t take long for me to come back. The Cottage posted a position for a Program Coordinator and I applied, and I started working here again after just a few months away. I decided that the Cottage was a better fit for me; here, I am constantly inspired. I was the Program Coordinator for about three years, so in total, I’ve worked here for more than five years. I continue to be honored to be a part of this amazing team.
Walk us through a typical day of your job. Where are you on a Monday morning or a Friday afternoon?
Skip. Too ridiculous to answer.
What is one surprising fact that no one knows about you? You cannot say you like cheeseburgers. We all already know this.
Really? I could talk about eating cheeseburgers all day! Wait. Now I’m hungry. How about sharing about my love of fall? Fall is the best season! I love chilly mornings, warm drinks and when the ginkgo tree next to the Cottage leaves turn gold. To celebrate fall and the month of October, I wear an orange sweatshirt with three black cats on it. It’s definitely a “mom” sweatshirt. By the way, I stole it from my mom. Hi, mom!
What’s your proudest moment so far while working at the Cottage?
President Lincoln’s Cottage makes me proud almost every day — from our Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons for Students Opposing Slavery to watching students acting on their own brave ideas. It all inspires me. That being said, I’m most proud of our team. The people who make up Lincoln’s Cottage are an all-star team that work tirelessly to make this place special. Here’s why I’m proud to be a part of this organization:
Erin: Our fearless leader who continuously shines under pressure. We’re lucky to have such a strong example of leadership. In my opinion, she’s just as good as Lincoln.
Callie: Brings love and support not just to her work, but also to her colleagues by supporting and encouraging each staff member. Callie goes out of her way to make people feel special and included. This may include bringing in funfetti cupcakes for almost every holiday.
Nora: Comes up with creative solutions to help set up a solid foundation for the Cottage to continue working. Her creativity continues into her hair colors and seriously fun fashion.
Jeff: Can fix any physical problem. I’m amazed by how diligently he takes care of the Cottage. Also, he’s a real cool office mate! I mean it. He knows everything about music, like, a living breathing iPod.
Sahand: Can turn an ordinary, simple task into something amazing. I’ve seen him create beautiful flower arrangements from the grounds to make guests feel welcome. It’s those little things that make people feel special. That also means I’ve seen him emerging from bushes with a bundle of flowers for an event.
Nathaniel: Generously supports each team member with genuine care. He is the best person to ask for help and talk about silly internet memes. We’ve shared so many good laughs.
Zach: I’m convinced Zach knows everything about everything. I go to him constantly with questions about finances, the Civil War, editing a document, etc. He never turns me away when I need advice or guidance. I guess that’s why he won Jeopardy!
Jenny: I go to Jenny all the time to laugh. Her humor has made our social media fun. More importantly, her wit and charm matched with her professionalism has landed us amazing media coverage. You go girl!
MPAs: The front-line staff at President Lincoln’s Cottage is a flexible group of people who constantly create meaningful experiences for visitors, school groups, and guests. We receive countless praise for them as guides. They are that good.
What is the funniest or most memorable experience you’ve had at the Cottage? (Besides meeting me)
The most memorable moment is when Sahand and I decided to take a break from work and watch snow fall. We had a Frozen moment — Sahand’s dance moves paired with my vocals. Another memorable moment was working on the program for the Last Ride [in 2015]. While planning this program we ran into many roadblocks. However, we persevered, thought up creative solutions, and in the end, pulled off one of the best moments. We honored Lincoln’s legacy with a horseback ride from the White House to the Cottage for the 150th anniversary of his last visit to the Soldiers’ Home. It was beautiful and extremely meaningful. I might have even cried…
Down to brass tacks: Lincoln. What’s your favorite Lincoln fact, story, or quote? Basically, what do you like about the guy?
My favorite is Lincoln’s “clapback” from/at Stephen Douglas: “If I had two faces, would I be wearing this one?” I love Lincoln’s self-deprecating humor because I think it’s important to poke fun at yourself. We can’t always take life too seriously.
What’s one question you would ask Abraham Lincoln?
“What drives you? What is the one thing that gets you up in the morning and makes you go to work?”
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, besides Lincoln (he’s already at the table), who would it be and why?
Oprah, duh. I actually don’t think this needs an explanation. However, if she was busy, I’d ask President Obama.
Ok, since it’s October, and I know you love creepy things, tell me your favorite spooky historic place story.
As you know, Jenny, I too wanted to be a ghost hunter when I was a kid. My favorite spooky place is Lemp Mansion in St. Louis. The family owned a brewery and they were eccentric. I might have actually seen a ghost there…(chills)
Amazing, I need to add it to my list. Ok, I ask everyone this. Give me your pitch: why should someone visit the Cottage?
Because, like Lincoln, you can use it as a place to be inspired. This is your Home for Brave Ideas, too.
If you would like to talk about RuPaul, the anatomy of the perfect cheeseburger, or something much lighter, like the meaning of “liberty,” you can find Michelle in her basement office drinking from an artsy Lincoln mug, or you can simply email her at email@example.com.